welcome to bbc news, broadcasting to viewers in north america and around the globe. my name's mike embley. our top stories: president trump defends his decision to fire the director of the fbi, saying he'd lost confidence injames comey. why did you fire him? because he wasn't doing a good job, very simply. he was not doing a good job. nearly a0 dead in more than a month of demonstrations. we're out on the streets in the midst of the protests in venezuela. as forces backed by the us drive more of the so—called islamic state extremists from their strongholds, we talk to the foreign fighters trying to get back to europe. hello. president trump has defended his hugely controversial decision to fire the head of the fbi, saying james comey had not been doing a good job and his replacement
would do a "far better" one. white house officials have been suggesting the president had lost confidence in mr comey over the past several months. he'd been leading an fbi investigation into links between the trump campaign team and russia. here's our north america editor, jon sopel. this is a fox news alert. fbi directorjames comey has been fired by the president of the united states. the term breaking news is bandied around with abandon. last night, it was justified. because, at fbi offices, the first they knew that their director had been fired was when it flashed up on their tv screens. and james comey, who was in los angeles addressing staff, knew nothing about it either until an aide handed him a note and the letter sent by president trump was brutal. at least they left him the governmentjet to fly back to the east coast, a private citizen, a turbulent career cut short.
and today the president was unrepentant. reporter: why did you fire director comey? because he wasn't doing a good job, very simply. he was not doing a good job. james comey, the 68" tall fbi director, was the person who confirmed in bombshell testimony in march that the trump campaign was under investigation for its links to russia during the election. the fbi, as part of our counterintelligence mission, is investigating the russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. the president has railed consistently that it's fake news and there has been no improper contact. last night, he fired the man heading the inquiry. it's caused fury and dismay among some republicans and all democrats. we know director comey was leading an investigation in whether the trump campaign colluded with the russians, a serious offence. were those investigations getting too close to home for the president? the dismissal of director comey establishes a very troubling pattern.
and democrats have wasted no time in drawing parallels with the dark days of the nixon presidency, when richard nixon, in 1973, fired the special prosecutor investigating him over the break—in at the watergate building. it was known as the saturday night massacre. a year later, nixon would resign. for special prosecutor then, insert fbi director today. it was brazen. one of the most staggering, stunning acts of a president compromising an investigation since the saturday night massacre involving richard nixon. in fact, it was a nixonian act and reminds us all about the importance of the rule of law, which evidently donald trump does not respect. but the white house is seeking to persuade people that the decision to fire comey had nothing to do with russia or the fbi investigation. it was time for a fresh
start at the fbi. and i think the president did, as he's done in so many other cases, he took decisive action, he provided strong leadership and to act on the recommendation of the deputy attorney general. the white house says the loss of confidence stems from james comey‘s investigation into hillary clinton's use of a private e—mail server from when she was secretary of state. i made a mistake using a private e—mail. he decided lastjuly there would be no prosecution, just a rap on the knuckles. republicans were furious. then, stunningly, he reopened his inquiry 11 days before polling. it took guts for director comey to make the move that he made. but if it really is all about the way the fbi conducted the hillary clinton investigation, why sack him now? why this intervention? why not do it when donald trump first came to office? and how do you reconcile it with the praise that was heaped
upon james comey? whatever, it's left the fbi feeling very sore about the way their director's been treated. and into the washington maelstrom who should arrive today for his first visit to see the trump administration? why, none other than sergey lavrov, the russian foreign minister, injokey mood. was he fired? you are kidding! he then went to meet donald trump at the white house but curiously for the camera—loving president, the press was kept away. this feels like house of cards on steroids. the russian president, vladimir putin, has said the sacking of james comey will have no effect on relations between his country and the united states. he was interviewed by elizabeth palmer, with cbs news just before he played in an amateur ice hockey game in the city of sochi on wednesday. how will the firing ofjames comey affect us american relations?
translation: there will be no effect. your question seems funny for me. we have nothing to do with it. president trump is acting in accordance with his law and the constitution. what about us? why ask? you see, i am about to play hockey. i invite you to do the same. i will be here. i will be watching. thank you very much. the kremlin spoken in doing the
translation between president putin. our washington correspondent, laura bicker, says critics questioned the timing of the white house meeting with the russian foreign minister, sergei lavrov. no us media were allowed inside that meeting with the russian foreign ambassador. for any footage that we have seen, we have relied on russian media to get it. so when it came to the question of the firing of the man who was in charge of leading an investigation into alleged collusion between russia and the trump campaign, added to that you have that meeting today, you have vladimir putin saying that he has nothing to do with it. remember, donald trump wants to push aside this russian investigation. a number of us media are reporting this evening that his frustration over the last few months and his inability to get rid of this russia story has really seemed to frustrate the president, according to those closest to him speaking
on condition of anonymity to various news agencies. so, when it comes this story, this one will not go away but the question is if he really did want it to go away and he thought firing james comey would do it, he has been sadly mistaken. reports also the james comey had asked thejustice department for more resources to investigate links with russia and then thejustice department fired him. mr comey has been commenting, though? in the last half hour we have been given a letter that james comey sent to his colleagues at the fbi. i will read you some of it. it says i am not going to spend time on the decision or the way it was executed. i hope you won't either. "it is done and i will be fine although i will miss you and the mission deeply." it goes on to say,
"in times of turbulence, the american people should see the fbi as a rock of competence, honesty and independence. the nature and the quality of the fbi and the people within it make it that rock for america." he is not reflecting too deeply or trying not to reflect too deeply on the manner of him being fired, but it does sound as if he will miss his career dearly. when it comes to those us media reports, the ones that we have been hearing, james comey asked for further resources to investigate the russian hacking, the department ofjustice has strenuously denied that that request came to them. so, it is one says one thing and the other says another. we are almost out of time but an unusual move from the senate senate intelligence committee investigating the links, they have subpoenaed him?
yes. they have subpoenaed michael flynn who was fired for lying about his phone calls with the russian ambassador. they are asking for documents relating to his business dealings, his contacts in russia. he seems to be at the centre of the senate intelligence committee investigation and asking for it now may be significant. it is a sign that the intelligence committee is forging ahead with its investigation. two more people have been killed in another day of anti—government protests across venezuela, bringing the number of dead close to a0. it's been more than a month of near—daily demonstrations. government supporters held their own demonstration, salsa dancing and waving pictures of the former socialist president hugo chavez, who they revere. vladimir hernandez is in caracas. it's been over a month of protests here in venezuela. people here are asking for fresh elections but this is an economy in crisis. the inflation rate could reach 700% before the end of the year and the economy is crashing. why are you protesting today?
translation: i'm here today protesting against the policies of the government of president maduro, because it is his fault, the crisis we are in. translation: we need to recover the freedom of this country and our fundamental human rights. translation: i am here asking the government to stop killing our students. their deaths are a tragedy. i am protesting to recover the country i grew up in. to have food, security and the many rights that we have lost. this is one of many demonstrations that we have seen in venezuela for at least five weeks. this is not the only one that's happening today. there is another demonstration by pro—government supporters all the way on the other side of town. they think these demonstrations
are a coup against the government. but for people like these, who i;ve spoken to today, they think it's the government who should listen to them. let's round up some of the main news, the former brazilian president desilva gave a defiant speech to supporters in a corruption trial threatening to destroy his career. he said ecus is offered no proof that he received an apartment as a bride in corruption scandals linked with the state oil company petrobras. foreign ministers of the eight countries with territory in the arctic circle are meeting in alaska amid confusion about the us government's policy on climate change. the effects of a warming climate are being felt particularly keenly in the arctic and they are eager to learn what us policy on climate change will be. a draft copy of the election manifesto for britain's main opposition labour party has been leaked.
the document obtained by the bbc and several newspapers includes plans to nationalise britain's railway network, pa rt—nationalise its energy industry and to scrap university tuition fees. the manifesto wasn't due to be be published until next week. stay with us on bbc news. still to come: they left the west to fight for islamic state, but as the group loses ground in syria, europe doesn't want them back. so what next for these is defectors? the pope was shot and the pope will live. that was the essence of the appalling news from rome this afternoon. as an italian television commentator put it, terrorism has come to the vatican. the man they called the butcher of lyon, klaus barbie, went on trial today in the french town where he was the gestapo chief in the second world war. winnie mandela never looked like a woman sentenced to six years injail. the judge told her there was no indication she felt even the slightest remorse. the chinese government has called for an all—out effort to help victims of a powerful earthquake, the worst to hit the country
for 30 years. the computer deep blue has tonight triumphed over the world chess champion, gary kasparov. it is the first time a machine has defeated a reigning world champion in a classical chess match. america's first legal same—sex marriages have been taking place in massachusetts. god bless america! this is bbc news. the latest headlines: president trump has defended his decision to sack the head of the fbi. the white house said the president had been considering firing james comey since taking office. let's stay with our top story. earlier i spoke to mica mosbacher, formerfinance chair for the republican national committee. she has also held senior positions on the last five presidential campaigns. she supports donald trump's firing of the fbi director. well, part of it is, again, political.
the liberal democrats haven't let it go. they still need group therapy to face the fact that they have lost. but let me say that it has been brewing for some time, in terms of what the fate of comey was, partly because of last week's testimony in front of congress, and the fact that comey made several misleading statements, leading to an unprecedented memo by fbi contradicting what comey said. that was one thing that put a nail in the proverbial coffin. but other things also played into this. you know, trump is a businessman, and he is very methodical about his decisions. but if you look back at lastjuly, when the investigation into the hillary clinton mishandling of classified information on a personal server all began, she was interviewed 4july weekend, on saturday, and three days later, or on tuesday, director comey came out and said that she
had been exonerated. this is absolutely unheard of, for an fbi director to insert himself into an investigation in that fashion. and i spoke with a veteran fbi agent today who said that there were several things that happened during that time. first of all, it takes months to investigate an issue such as the one facing hillary clinton. but in a way — forgive me, in a way, we can leave what happened with hillary clinton on one side. that is clearly not why mr comey was sacked, because mr trump had heaped praise on mr comey. what does... he had — his confidence, though, was eroding. all right, but even given that — you are clearly a smart operator. you know how that place works. what we have is the guy running an investigation removed from it by the people with the most to lose from that investigation. you must know how bad that looks. it screams "cover—up," doesn't it?
it doesn't. what screams cover—up is the fact that it was clear that the clinton investigation was a sham from the beginning. fbi agents that i have spoken with in the past, and including today, have all said that it demoralised the fbi. they felt that their hands were handcuffed, and they didn't really have the opportunity to investigate this thoroughly, to bring it to a fair, unbiased conclusion. it became apparent to trump that the fbi and doj were becoming politicised, and he could no longer trust those individuals. what took him so long was that he did not have a deputy director, until rosenstein was confirmed, who was a 20—year veteran of the doj, and trump did not have the input he needed to make a clear decision, so he gave comey the benefit
of the doubt. but quite simply, at that point, he recognised that he has an institution in the united states that was the most respected institution, the fbi, with a dedicated group of men and women, who are now completely the laughing stock of the united states, and are making a sham of ourjustice system, and that's what the president recognised. south korea's new president, moonjae—in, has been congratulated in a phone call by donald trump, who has also invited him to washington. the leaders agreed on close cooperation in dealing with north korea nuclear weapons programme, and in a speech shortly after being sworn in to his new role, president moonjae—in said he could be prepared to visit pyongyang. translation: i will have serious discussions with the united states and china for the resolution of issues related to thaad. strong security is made possible with mighty defence capabilities. the government will also strive to further enhance self—reliant defence capabilities. it will also lay the foundation for the resolution of the north korean nuclear problem.
researchers in britain say anti—retroviral treatments in europe and north america have improved so much that hiv patients there can expect to live nearly as long as the general population. the scientists, from bristol university in south—west england, looked at outcomes for 90,000 people with the virus. their projections suggest a 21—year—old who began treatment in 2008 or later may end up living until their mid—70s. more than two million people are infected with the hiv virus in europe and north america. globally, the infection figure is 36 million, most of whom are in africa. in syria, us—backed forces have made significant gains as they prepare an assault on so—called islamic state's last major stronghold, raqqa. they have just recaptured the city of tabqa from is, and retaken a nearby dam, after weeks of fighting. as the extremists lose ground, large numbers of foreign fighters are trying to get back to europe. from northern aleppo, our middle east correspondent quentin sommerville and cameraman fred scott sent this report. the free syrian army
are driving out is. here in northern syria, the so—called islamic state is collapsing. but what happens to its believers and converts, those that abandoned europe to live under the caliphate? these camps are for civilians, the most desperate. but lurking here is a threat, is fighters living among them. the camps here in northern syria are being overwhelmed. people are fleeing fighting on a number of fronts, and this is before the big attack on the is de facto capital, raqqa. is fighters and their families are trying to get out. some are trying to defect. many of them are being captured here, before they even make it to the border with turkey. we were given exclusive access to one jail holding european is fighters. they are a threat, and distrusted,
so are heavily guarded by the al shamir front. these are the personal belongings of is prisoners and defectors. hundreds have been captured, including whole families heading back to europe. mohammad atalla and his wife left niemen, france, to join the islamic state. they had a baby while in raqqa. he says he doesn't hate france, and wants to return. translation: a friend came and told me i should leave and join the islamic state. i let him brainwash me. i was weak, and ifollowed him. life under the islamic state in syria is difficult. there is a lot of bombing. it's not a life we wish on anyone. translation: i had a normal life in france. i was well, i was happy. i had hobbies. i was in school. it had nothing to do with here. we live in fear.
europe doesn't want them back, and the fighters who control here don't want them to stay. translation: they are a burden on us. there is a huge number of defectors here in northern countryside, and we don't have the ability to look after them. if we got more help from their countries in europe, then many more is members would defect and give themselves up. and the bbc spoke to a british man inside syria, stefan aristidou, who left for raqqa two years ago. despite joining is willingly, he now appealed for rescue. he said... he has since escaped to turkey, where he is being held injail.
a people smuggler we met was helping stefan aristidou escape. he says is has set traps for those fleeing. translation: the number defecting is increasing a lot, but their main problem is is sleeper cells pretending to be smugglers. they make contact with members trying to leave, and hand them over to is security officials. is prisons are full of people who tried to defect. the scale of the problem is enormous. we visited three different prisons, all holding is fighters from across the globe. they are battle—hardened. this man came from palestine.
translation: there was a kind of compulsion for foreign fighters to go to the front line. "where? we asked. "it's not your business," we were told. so we fought, and we didn't ask questions. the caliphate is in ruins and its converts are lost. the free syrian army can't hold them much longer, so the dangerous and the unwanted from is increasingly have nowhere to go, except to come home. quentin sommerville, bbc news, northern aleppo. as the world celebrates the birthday of lord buddha, a 13—metre—long sand art sculpture of buddha has been created in the sri lankan capital, colombo. it was made by the indian sand artist sudarsan pattnaik, and claims to be a world record. sri lanka is hosting the 2017 international vesak day celebrations on thursday. this year, indian prime minister narendra modi will attend. the top story, president trump has
been defending his hugely controversial decision to fire the head of the fbi. he said comey had not been doing a good job. the democrats claim it is an attempt to derail the investigation of collusion between russia and the trump campaign and a highly unusual move the intelligence committee the us senate has issued a subpoena ordering the former national security adviser general michael flynn to hand over all details of his dealings with russia. they are also due to hear testimony from mr comey next week. much more of that and all the news any time on the bbc website. and you can get in touch with me and most of the team on twitter. i'm @bbcmikeembley. hello there.
after the dry weather that we have been experiencing for days and weeks now, there is finally a change on the way, courtesy of these lumps of cloud, which have been bringing some quite vicious thunderstorms across spain and portugal, now on the march northwards. so many of us will see some showery rain and perhaps some thunderstorms over the next couple of days, and with that, a feed of warm, southerly winds, some humid air moving in our direction for the end of the week. so yes, those temperatures climbing. quite a muggy feel to the weather, with the risk of some thunderstorms. in fact, there could be the odd flash of lightning as some showers approach the far south through the first part of thursday morning. so, down towards the south coast, one or two showers to start the day. further north, for the likes of london, east anglia, should be a fine and sunny start. could be one or two thundery showers across the channel islands, into the south—west of england. not expecting huge amounts of rain at this stage, but could just be a few sprinkles, and the odd flash of lightning overhead, some of that getting into the south of wales.
but north wales, the west midlands, north—west england, starting the day with some sunshine, and actually a relatively chilly start to the day here. a fine start for northern ireland and much of scotland, but some extra cloud across caithness and sutherland, fringing into parts of aberdeenshire, certainly across the northern isles, where there will be the odd spot of rain. much of northern england seeing fine weather, with some sunshine to start off the day. now, as we go through the day, there will be a lot of dry weather once again. some spells of sunshine, but we will see this very patchy, showery rain moving its way northwards, and then into the afternoon, the chance that we could spark off some really quite vicious downpours and thunderstorms. not everywhere, but if you catch one, well, you will know about it, a lot of rain in a short space of time. temperatures in the south up as high as 22, maybe 23 degrees. a little bit cooler, still, further north. but, as we go through thursday night into the early hours of friday, that humid air continues to trundle northwards. some hit—and—miss, showery rain, and it will be a much, much less chilly night
than we have had recently. eight to 13 degrees, those are the minimum temperatures. friday, well, a bit of a mishmash, really. yes, there will be some spells of sunshine. there will also be some of these showers drifting northwards. still the potential for the odd rumble of thunder, flash of lightning, and still feeling pretty humid for many. 19 degrees there in london, something cooler holding on across the far north of scotland. saturday another fairly humid and showery day, some sunny spells between the downpours. but then, through saturday night, a change. a weather front moves its way in. behind that, some fresher air pushing in from the west. so temperatures on sunday will be a little bit lower. a fresher feel to the weather, with a mix of sunshine and showers. this is bbc news. the headlines: president trump has defended his decision to fire the director of the fbi. mr trump said he'd lost confidence in james comey and the bureau needed new leadership. democrats claim it's an attempt to derail the fbi's investigation into allegations of collusion between russia and the trump campaign. two more people have been killed in another day of anti—government protests across venezuela, bringing the number of dead close to a0 in over a month.
young protestors in caracas threw bottles at soldiers firing tear gas and water cannon. government supporters held their own demonstration. the bbc has gained exclusive access to foreign fighters in syria, who are trying to get back to europe, as so—called islamic state extremists continue to lose ground. after weeks of fighting, us backed forces are preparing an assault on the group's last major stronghold of raqqa after recapturing the city of tabqa. it's time now for click. this week: the coolest history lesson in history.